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Genome. 2007 Feb;50(2):119-36.

Unisexual salamanders (genus Ambystoma) present a new reproductive mode for eukaryotes.

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Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.


To persist, unisexual and asexual eukaryotes must have reproductive modes that circumvent normal bisexual reproduction. Parthenogenesis, gynogenesis, and hybridogenesis are the modes that have generally been ascribed to various unisexuals. Unisexual Ambystoma are abundant around the Great Lakes region of North America, and have variously been described as having all 3 reproductive modes. Diploid and polyploid unisexuals have nuclear genomes that combine the haploid genomes of 2 to 4 distinct sexual species, but the mtDNA is unlike any of those 4 species and is similar to another species, Ambystoma barbouri. To obtain better resolution of the reproductive mode used by unisexual Ambystoma and to explore the relationship of A. barbouri to the unisexuals, we sequenced the mitochondrial control and highly variable intergenic spacer region of 48 ambystomatids, which included 28 unisexuals, representatives of the 4 sexual species and A. barbouri. The unisexuals have similar sequences over most of their range, and form a close sister group to A. barbouri, with an estimated time of divergence of 2.4-3.9 million years ago. Individuals from the Lake Erie Islands (Kelleys, Pelee, North Bass) have a haplotype that demonstrates an isolation event. We examined highly variable microsatellite loci, and found that the genetic makeup of the unisexuals is highly variable and that unisexual individuals share microsatellite alleles with sexual individuals within populations. Although many progeny from the same female had the same genotype for 5 microsatellite DNA loci, there was no indication that any particular genome is consistently inherited in a clonal fashion in a population. The reproductive mode used by unisexual Ambystoma appears to be unique; we suggest kleptogenesis as a new unisexual reproductive mode that is used by these salamanders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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